We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Italian Renaissance Learning Resources - The National Gallery of Art

Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Picturing Family and Friends

Lorenzo de’ Medici on love and beauty

Lorenzo de’ Medici on love and beauty

Lorenzo was recognized by contemporaries not only for his political skills as statesman and diplomat, his banking empire, and his patronage of the arts, but also for his intellectual and literary accomplishments. The excerpt below is from the prologue of the unfinished commentary he wrote about his sonnets.

And above all [love is] the cause that leads men to worthy and excellent endeavors, and leads them to practice and to turn into action those virtues that are potentially in our soul. Therefore, whoever diligently seeks the true definition of love, finds it to be nothing other than an appetite for beauty [here Lorenzo is following Marsilio Ficino] … I set aside for the moment that love which, according to Plato, is the means whereby all things find their perfection and ultimately rest in the Supreme Beauty, that is, in God. And speaking of that love that is preferred solely for loving the human creature, I say that, although this is not that perfection of love that one calls “the highest good,” at least we see clearly that it contains in itself so many benefits and that it avoids so many evils that, according to the common customs of human life, it is considered to be good. This is especially so if it is adorned with those circumstances and conditions that are appropriate for a true love, which seem to me to be two: the first, that a person love one beloved only; and the second, that a person love the same beloved always. It is difficult for these two conditions to be fulfilled if the beloved does not have in herself, in proportion with other human qualities, the highest perfection, and if, beyond those natural beauties there do not come together in the beloved great liveliness of mind, graceful and chaste behavior and habits, an elegant manner and actions, wise adroitness and sweet words, and love, constancy, and faith. And these things all necessarily combine in the perfection of love.


The Autobiography of Lorenzo de’ Medici the Magnificent: A Commentary on My Sonnets, trans. and with an introduction by James Wyatt Cook, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 129 (Binghamton, NY: The State University of New York at Binghamton, 1995), pp. 35–7.